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A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 2)! “You can’t believe Bush,” one pundit said. But on Hardball, they praised the full package:

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2003

EVENTS ARE MOVING QUICKLY: Events are moving quickly on the Culture of Lying front. In this morning’s Post, E. J. Dionne’s column, “The Say-Anything School,” discusses the culture of deception surrounding this president. Meanwhile, Harold Meyerson’s column, “Enron-Like Unreality,” says “there are leading figures in this administration who think that when the real facts don’t look so good, it’s fine to substitute your own.” Dionne is late to the chase, but he simply must lead. More on his column tomorrow.

A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 2): During Campaign 2000, everyone said they agreed on the basics. The baby-boomers would soon be retiring. Therefore, Social Security surpluses had to be used for paying down federal debt. (This would strengthen Social Security in the coming decades.) Here, for example, was Candidate Bush at the first Bush-Gore debate:

BUSH (10/3/00): I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut.
What a thoughtful man! More specifically, Bush pledged that the entire projected Social Security surplus ($2.4 trillion in the coming ten years) would be used for Social Security alone. And because all that money had to go to SS, we could only cut taxes by $1.3 trillion. Bush said this at every stop. That was what this dissembling man said when he was trying to win over voters.

But that was then, and this is empire, as we learned in Sunday’s Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/12/03). Bush got his $1.3 trillion tax cut in 2001; a second small tax cut in 2002; and now he’s seeking $726 billion more. And not only that—he plans to cut taxes every year after this, according to Milbank and Balz! So how in the world do all these tax cuts fit what Candidate Bush told the public? It’s very hard to figure that out. But inside the press corps, cowering pundits all know that they must never ask.

It’s hard to know just how to explain the change in Bush’s approach. After all, we’re now spending large amounts of those Social Security surpluses—money Bush said he never would touch. Despite that, even more tax cuts are being proposed—and no one dares ask the manly-man why. Bush’s endless cuts fly in the face of his solemn pledges in Campaign 2000. But of one thing you can be certain. Cowering pundits know not to question. A culture of faking surrounds George Bush—and scripted pundits know they’re paid not to see it.

How odd is the mainstream press corps’ current culture? Let’s look at a remarkable column in last Thursday’s Post. We think the piece made a lot of good sense. But midway through, its author—Jonathan Chait—made some remarkable statements. As Chait noted, some antiwar liberals have come to believe “that Bush made the whole thing up about weapons of mass destruction.” Chait thinks Iraq did have such weapons. But listen to Chait’s remarkable statements as he considers the alternate view:

CHAIT: It’s entirely appropriate to question the honesty of Bush’s stated rationale for fighting. After all, the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda are shot through with deceit. (Consider his shifting, implausible and contradictory justifications for cutting taxes.) And it’s also true that a few elements of the administration’s evidence against Iraq have turned out to be overstatements or outright hoaxes.

So Bush’s claims should never be taken at face value. But accepting the fact that Iraq had an extensive and continuing program for weapons of mass destruction doesn’t require taking Bush at his word…

Chait thinks there really were WMDs; here at THE HOWLER, we’ve assumed as much too. But note the pundit’s remarkable statements. “Bush’s claims should never be taken at face value,” he says. After all, “the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda are shot through with deceit.” Indeed, “it’s also true that a few elements of the administration’s evidence against Iraq have turned out to be outright hoaxes.” The key thing to remember about WMD? Believing that they really existed “doesn’t require taking Bush at his word.”

Hoaxes. Deceit. You can’t believe Bush. And these statements come from a bright young writer who generally supported Bush on Iraq! But Chait understands what others will not—a Culture of Lying surrounds George Bush. Lying has followed wherever he goes. Chait doesn’t choose to ignore it.

But all through your deeply corrupted “press corps,” store-bought butt-lickers snore, burp and burble, assuring readers that their manly president really looks great in that flight suit. Margaret Carlson wolfs down her desserts, misstates Robert Byrd and keeps slandering Gore. Meanwhile, her ballyhooed buddy, the astounding Chris Matthews, chatted about Bush with Gordon Liddy last Thursday. Try to believe that you live in a country where this conversation took place:

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?

LIDDY: Well, I—in the first place, I think it’s envy. I mean, after all, Al Gore had to go get some woman to tell him how to be a man [Official Naomi Wolf Spin-Point]. And here comes George Bush. You know, he’s in his flight suit, he’s striding across the deck, and he’s wearing his parachute harness, you know—and I’ve worn those because I parachute—and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those, run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman’s vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn’t count—they’re all liars. Check that out. I hope the Democrats keep ratting on him and all of this stuff so that they keep showing that tape.

You’d think that no one else was so stupid. But you forgot one thing—Chris Matthews is. “You know, it’s funny. I shouldn’t talk about ratings,” he said, also gazing at Bush’s crotch. “But last night was a riot because…these pictures were showing last night, and everybody’s tuning in to see these pictures again.”

As we’ve told you, our discourse spirals downward, before our very eyes. Carlson slurps her gooey desserts. Matthews and Liddy praise Bush’s stuffed shorts. And you can rest assured that this store-bought crew won’t ask the president what he’s doing on taxes. In fact, a Culture of Lying surrounded Bush when he made that pledge on that campaign stage. And the press corps already knew one thing—they knew that they must never notice.

TOMORROW: Candidate Bush lied in Lehrer’s face. Then he lied more the next day.

TRY TO BELIEVE THAT YOU LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY: One night after Michael “Tire Iron” Graham explained how he hoped to club Senator Clinton, millionaire half-wits Matthews and Liddy were pandering hard to the base. No, we did not make this up:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your new book, When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country. What do you mean by that?

LIDDY: OK. What I am deliberately aiming at is young people, and the way I start out is by telling them, look, when I was a kid, these were the things that I could do which would be thought extraordinary today. You’re just not—for example, at age 12, with two or three buddies walking right down the main street of town, rifles, pistols, shotguns, going out in the woods, banging away.

MATTHEWS: Where did you grow up? In Tucson?

LIDDY: No. West Caldwell, New Jersey, 13 miles from the George Washington Bridge. That’s the whole—

MATTHEWS: And you guys were fully armed, stacked and packed, more or less.

LIDDY: Well, we—

MATTHEWS: Not exactly.

LIDDY: We were packed, not stacked.

MATTHEWS: That’s right!

And yes, boys and girls, you can giggle hard now, because those were dick jokes also! It’s almost impossible to comprehend how stupid the cable audience is. But millionaire fakers—Chris Matthews, for instance—are eager to learn. And to pander.

The Daily update

MARGARET DOESN’T SWEAT, SHE GLISTENS: Even by Saturday, vacuous insider pundit Margaret Carlson still didn’t have the first clue. Here she was on Capital Gang, making a joke of your discourse:
MARK SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, the commander in chief, the president, is certainly entitled to visit any military installation, any servicemen and women any time the commander in chief chooses to do so. But why did the White House lie and change its story so many times about this visit? He needed the plane, he couldn’t get out there—it’s only 30 miles offshore. I mean, do you have an explanation?

CARLSON: Well, the point that the Democrats made turned out to be true, that you know, he could have gone on a helicopter, which Ari Fleischer said he couldn’t. They did turn it in a lazy circle a few times to keep it there. They did want water as the backdrop and not the shore. But their complaints only served to keep the picture up there for another week, and it only made Ari Fleischer look bad. It didn’t make the president look bad. It kind of didn’t stick, especially when it was such an American moment, and you had the troops looking on adoringly, and it sounded as if Bob Byrd wanted those troops to file a class action suit that they stayed at sea a day longer, which, in fact, they didn’t. And by the way, Bob Byrd has brought every piece of political pork to West Virginia he can, so you know, the state is practically paved over with federal dollars, so he’s not a good

SHIELDS: Does it make him a bad person?

CARLSON: He’s not a good spokesman—

SHIELDS: I was with you up until that last sentence.

It’s hard to believe, but even by Saturday, the half-witted pundit still lacked the first clue. Byrd had said nothing about the cost of Bush’s trip—but five days later, there she went again, slamming him as if he had. Nor had the solon said a word about the troops “staying at sea a day longer.” But how could Carlson know any facts? As we saw from her diary at Slate, Carlson spent the previous week going to lunch, renovating her home, and giving speeches about her vacuous book. In no other sector can a major professional be so palpably unprepared and uninformed. But inside the cohort we describe as a “press corps,” misfeasance has long been the norm.

Of course, there was something that Carlson did know; she knew she mustn’t criticize Bush. (Ari looked bad; the manly-man didn’t.) Meanwhile, one other Standard Denigration of Gore appeared in Carlson’s comments. In Campaign 2000, Candidate Gore was officially “sweaty;” trained pundits knew that they must try to say it. Incredibly, Carlson even managed to voice that spin-point as she clowned her way through Saturday’s program (you’ll find it halfway through the transcript). It’s astounding that someone as empty as Carlson plays a key role in our public discourse. Tomorrow, we’ll watch the simpering scribe as she recites with her favorite, Chris M.